Subject: Pyrrhic Victory
I woke up today feeling pretty badass. Just like my dream, I led my team up the field and handed the ball off to a teammate for the touchdown right on Turn 8! I drove my Urban Ferrari (that’s what I’m calling it now) to school, and parked that bad boy right in front of the student center like a boss. No long walk for me today; I figure I earned it. A 1-0 start in the MML should get me some respect from my teammates; a great start to my legendary history at this school. I didn’t even mind that we cooked chitlins and collard greens in my home ec class this morning (the smell kind of turns my stomach).
I walked into the team meeting early, with a big smile on my face, and in return my teammates…well, my teammates gave me what they call the Gas Face. I couldn’t believe it!! Even Alton Sterling rolled his eyes at me, and I handed a TD off to him yesterday!
Freddie Gray walked in, gave everybody an upwards nod, and then flippantly threw a “Hello, Narc” at me over his shoulder as he walked toward his usual seat at the back of the classroom, plopped down, slouched back, and pulled his hood over his head. I just then noticed that everyone in the room was wearing hooded sweatshirts. Whatever they were doing, I was once again left on the outside looking in.
This time I couldn’t contain myself. “Okay, what the hell?” I asked. “I led this team to a victory yesterday. Our first MML Pro victory! Doesn’t that count for something?”
Freddie didn’t even get excited. He just shook his head and sucked his teeth loudly at me. “You led this team? See, that’s just the attitude that we expect from you. You led this team…you never got a block put on you! We controlled that pitch! You just walked up and down that field in the warm blanket that we provided all match!”
“I was playing ball control! I was following the strategy that Coach Jest dictated!” I countered. But everybody just groaned at me.
Almost in an amused tone, Freddie replied, “You say ‘I’ more than a damned pirate. You wasn’t playing ball control. We played ball control. Took hits. Risked injuries. All without an apo…an apo that was cut so that your punk ass could come to this team…and one of us paid a heavy price for that.” He motioned to the empty chair next to him, in the corner, where Trayvon Martin usually sat with his hoody pulled up over his…oh. Then I remembered…the match hadn’t gone exactly like in my dream, after all. In my dream, we had smashed an undermanned team into a numbers disadvantage during that first half, taking no injuries ourselves. But in real life, Thee Grandiose Gladiators had spent a bunch of cash before the match (I guess their stadium upgrade would have to wait?), giving them a healthy bench, and they managed to smash Treyvon’s collar bone right before we scored. He would never be the same, and these guys saw that as my fault. I hadn’t even stopped to consider that, because I was so wrapped up in my own glory. Remember when you told me about that king, Phyrrhus, who defeated the Roman army a couple of times, only to realize winning those battles really cost him more than they were worth? I felt stupid…like a real loser…lower than a loser. “I think I speak for everybody here, Narc,” Freddie continued, “when I say we wish you never came to Greendale. We would be better off with Walter still here. Trayvon would be okay, and, on the real, Walter got a better arm than you, anyway.”
A bunch of “mmhmms,” “yups,” vigorous nods, and even an “Amen” followed, just as Coach Jest walked in to start the meeting, with an unfamiliar face in tow. He quickly introduced us to Kajieme Powell, our new thrower. “Don’t worry, Shank, your job’s not in jeopardy. This just makes sense,” Coach Jest shot at me, maybe noticing my unhappy surprise. Out of my peripheral vision, I saw Freddie high-fiving Sandra Bland.
After the team meeting, I hauled ass to the trainer’s office and woke Trayvon up. I think he was heavily medicated, but I really can’t tell with him. He’s always pretty soft-spoken and chill. Most of the time he’s got headphones on and his hoody pulled up; he kind of keeps to himself. “I’m really sorry,” I blurted out. “I know if the team hadn’t hired me we’d have had an apo, and he could have fixed you up, and you sacrificed yourself out there so that I could carry that ball close to the end zone and get us that touchdown, and you deserved every bit of that MVP that the fans voted you in for, and…if I could trade places with you…I would.” For a couple of seconds, he just looked at me. I wasn’t sure if he was pondering his response, or if it was a delayed reaction, but it felt like an hour.
Finally, Trayvon, blinked his eyes at me and said softly, “You alright, dawg. Honestly, I was kinda nearin’ the end of my rope with Blood Bowl, anyway. Really want to work on planes…maybe be a pilot, even.”
And with that, I felt 10 times better. Trayvon forgave me; maybe everyone else could, too. I burst out, “Thank you, Trayvon. You’re gonna be a great pilot…and I’m gonna make your sacrifice on the Blood Bowl pitch worth it; you’ll see!” Then I ran out of the room, back to the student center, then to the campus police lot where they had towed my defaced, unnecessarily expensive car, from which I drove back to my ridiculously lavish apartment, broke out my playbook, and started studying. I’m going to show up to practice tomorrow with a strategy to beat the so-called Champions of Valhalla and their notorious Norse T offense. I’m going to make Trayvon proud. I’m going to win the respect of my teammates. I’m going to show Coach Jest that the extra 20,000 he spent to bring in another thrower instead of a lineman was just gold bloat. I’m not going to be King Pyrrhus. We will win this war.
Todd a.k.a. Ham Shank a.k.a. The Narc a.k.a. Loser for Now
*Breaking the Fourth Wall: for more on the real Trayvon Martin, check out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trayvon_Martin